In this guest post,  photographer Nick Ray shares his take on the popular Black & White Challenge, with a little trip down memory lane.

Despite all the technology available to photographers today the black and white image remains popular. There is a beauty and purity to a black and white image, which seems to communicate across different tastes and cultural influences. In many cases losing the distraction of colour allows the composition of the photograph to become the dominant element, and the tones reveal themselves.

A ‘Black and White Challenge’, where photographers nominated each other to post five black and white photographs on five consecutive days, recently made the rounds on Facebook. I too got challenged to take part, and the images I ended up choosing acted as a proper trip down memory lane. Here are my five choices.

Sierra Leone. 2008.

Guest blogger: Nick Ray and his take on the Black & White challenge.
This photograph was taken on assignment for The Times in Sierra Leone. Initially I overlooked it when editing, but in monochrome the rich tones brought it to life.

Night Patrol in Helmand, Afghanistan. 2008.

Guest blogger: Nick Ray and his take on the Black & White challenge.
There was no colour in this photograph to start with! it was shot on a compact camera whilst on patrol with the British Army in Afghanistan. The soldiers are silhouetted against the moon. I love the ethereal quality of this photograph.

Pinhole camera. 1985.

Guest blogger: Nick Ray and his take on the Black & White challenge.
I was still at school when I took this photograph. I used a pinhole camera made from a biscuit tin with a piece of photographic paper taped inside, and an exposure of about 30 seconds. The resulting negative was contact-printed to create the print. To me this was pure magic, and it was the moment my love of photography, and eventually my whole career, began.

Landscape in Co. Kerry, Ireland.  1994.

Guest blogger: Nick Ray and his take on the Black & White challenge.
This was shot on Kodak T-Max 3200 film. In film terms 3200 ISO was amazingly fast, but at the cost of huge grain. Modern digital cameras can shoot at 3200 ISO and above with almost imperceptible grain these days, which would have been incomprehensible back then.

Bride and her mother. 2014.

Guest blogger: Nick Ray and his take on the Black & White challenge.
As a wedding photographer I find many couples love the romanticism of black and white. For me this shot works better in black and white, I just love the light coming through the veil.

I hope you've enjoyed this trip to my b&w archives, and that it's maybe given you a spark to explore black & white photography further.

If you want to learn photography with Nick, join us for our Thru Your Lens workshop on January 19th.

Author: Nick Ray

Nick Ray has been a photographer for all his working life, travelling and exploring with his camera and telling a story through photographs. He spent over ten years as a photojournalist for The Times, covering assignments all over the world including the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Nick shoots a lot of portraits, mainly for newspapers and magazines. His subjects have included Hollywood celebrities, business leaders and world statesmen. In 2011 he was commissioned to photograph a series of portraits of notable Members of Parliament which now forms part of the House of Commons Art Collection. Nick runs Nick Ray Photography, through which he embraces documentary wedding photography and BTS photography.

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